Do You Need ACL Reconstruction Surgery?
Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a major ligament in your knee. The ACL is one of the two ligaments that helps stabilize your knee. If you have severely injured your ACL, you may require ACL reconstruction surgery. ACL injuries are very common when you are participating in sports that involve you suddenly changing directions. For example, it is quite common for athletes who are participating in basketball, football, soccer, skiing, or gymnastics to suffer from an ACL injury. In this article, you will learn all about ACL reconstruction surgery, including why it is done, how to prepare for surgery, what happens during surgery, the possible risks, and what recovery is like.
Why Do People Need ACL Reconstruction Surgery?
As mentioned earlier, it is very common for athletes to suffer from ACL injuries. Some studies have shown that female athletes are at higher risk of injuring their ACL compared to male athletes. However, athletes are not the only ones who can suffer from an ACL injury. For instance, you can injure your ACL doing a number of other things that are not specifically related to sports.
Activities include the following:
- Suddenly slowing down, stopping or changing directions
- Pivoting and not moving your foot, leaving your foot planted on the ground as your knee twists
- Landing incorrectly from a jump
- Receiving a direct hit to the knee
Sometimes, surgery is not required to treat an ACL injury. However, sometimes, surgery is required to treat ACL injuries that are more severe or injuries that need a little bit more than just physical therapy. In general, ACL reconstruction surgery is recommended if you are an athlete who wants to get back to playing the sport they love, you who have injured more than just one knee ligament, or the injury seriously impacts your everyday life and ability to walk. But, of course, it all depends on the patient and the severity of the injury.
How To Prepare for ACL Reconstruction Surgery
Like any major surgery, you can’t simply just walk into surgery without properly preparing yourself. Most likely, prior to going into surgery, you will have gone through many weeks of physical therapy. The reason for going through physical therapy prior to surgery is to help reduce the swelling and pain in your knee. In addition, physical therapy can help you regain your knee’s full range of motion. It is extremely important to reduce the swelling in your knee before going into surgery. Without doing so, you might not regain the full range of motion even after surgery.
How Does ACL Reconstruction Surgery Work?
During surgery, your surgeon will take out the damaged ligament and replace it with a healthy part of the tendon. The tissue that the surgeon uses to replace the damaged portion of the knee is called a graft. Grafts can come from two different areas: another part of your knee or from a deceased donor.
Grafts can come from various parts of the body. Here are some of the most common graft options:
- Patellar tendon autograft. The patellar tendon is located at the front of your knee, connecting your kneecap to your shin bone. Many surgeons prefer to use this type of graft because it resembles the ACL. In other words, the ACL and patellar tendon graft are roughly the same length.
- Hamstring tendon autograft. Your hamstrings are located on the back of your thighs. The great thing about these types of grafts is that the graft incision is smaller, meaning that the patient will experience less pain.
- Allograft. Allograft refers to donor tissue. This means that the graft is taken from a deceased person, also known as a cadaver. This type of graft is ideal for older patients so that the surgeon does not have to take a tendon from another part of the body. This type of graft means that the surgery will take less time because the surgeon doesn’t have to take the graft from the patient during surgery.
What are The Risks of ACL Reconstruction Surgery?
Like any major surgery, there are some possible risks to be aware of prior to going into surgery. Some risks include the following:
- Infection at the surgical site
- Graft failure
- Poor Healing
- Knee stiffness or pain
- Blood clots
- Injury to nearby blood vessels
- Loss in range of motion
What Is The Recovery Like?
After you wake up from surgery, you will most likely be sent home on the same day. You will need to wear a knee brace for the first 1–4 weeks after surgery. You might even need crutches to help give you extra support as your knee heels. At the same time, you will want to go to physical therapy to help regain your range of motion in your knee. Generally, it will take people about 4–6 months to return to their typical activities. However, it might take even longer, depending on how well you are healing and what the activity is.
ACL Reconstruction Surgery at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants
It can be quite frustrating to not be able to do the sport or activities that you love because you physically cannot participate. Here, at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we understand your frustration and pain. If you come in to see us, you will work with our excellent team on your journey to recovery.
If you are suffering from an ACL injury, are preparing for surgery, or recovering from surgery, contact us today to make your first appointment!